Chabad Hurricane Relief

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Mendel Rivkin's diary 8/31 11:40 PM

The Chabad of Houston community has thrown open their doors widely. It is amazing to see what we preach about Ahavat Yisrael and loving your fellow Jew as yourself in action. The Chabad staff here has been inundated with calls and emails offerring to host people and give food. They are even talking about taking kids in to their Torah Day School tuition free for the few months until New Orleans is operable again. The Chabad Centers in the vincinity of the evacuation areas are also extending a welcome to members of our New Orleans Jewish community. We are already in discussion about practical methods of setting up shop to continue our work in Louisiana and the overwhelming support we have received from our colleagues, the Rebbe's emmissaries all over the country and the world brings tears to my eyes. The love and brotherhood and feeling of real family is strongly sensed now. The support and concern from the many Jews, some of whom we know and many that we do not, is both comforting and amazing. We are starting to hear from New Orleans people that are scattered and exiled all over. As we think and reflect about the great tragedy that is still very much in motion and will continue to impact over a million people in a very real and direct way, we must also see the love and the beauty of Klal Yisrael. I always knew it but now I experience it firsthand.


Mendel Rivkin's diary

August 30 - 11:30 PM

After a grueling 12 hour trip we just arrived in Houston. We left this morning after the radio was reporting about the breach in the levee. There were 13 of us in three cars and we managed to find roads that were passable. After getting gas in Morgan City we came to Lafayette where the Aviner family graciously set up a little satellite community. The Schreiber family and several others were there. We spent 3-4 hours getting our bearings and then left to Houston. We are still very concerned about the people with which we have not had contact. Our phones are working on a very limited basis but we are trying to locate people. As news of people being safe come in the relief is great. Back home it is an unbelievable sight. Just in the Chabad House/Tulane area, though the flooding was not that bad (when we left) the downed trees and power lines and the debris completely cover the streets. Chimeneys fell. Pieces of roofs are off. Siding and gutters litter the yards. Gates are down. My car's back window was smashed by a piece of debris that fell off a roof on Broadway. This all pales in comparison to what we are hearing from Metairie and other areas. As we left New Orleans we felt like real refugees. We do not know when and how we will return. But we do know that we will be back to rebuild with G-d's help. Chabad is committed to being a presence in the New Orleans area during the upcoming trying times and a we will be a force in the rebuilding efforts.


Rabbi Nemes is on His Way Out 8/31 6:17 PM

We are definite that Rabbi Nemes has made it out of New Orleans, and he is on his way to Memphis, Tennesee . Thank G-d!
Tonight, Rabbi Goldman has organized a prayer service at Chabad House here for Sarah and I to lead. We expect over 200 students to participate.


Rabbi Nemes is Still Safe! 8/31 8:13 AM

We just had a bit of good news. Rabbi Nemes (director of Chabad of Metairie) managed to reach his parents in New York, in a brief phone conversation. He is OK, but he is stuck in his home in Metairie (Jefferson Parish, )with water on the first floor. They have been on the second floor for two days, and they are still OK.
Rabbi Nemes stayed because he was contacted by a few people that were stuck in the city and were afraid to shelter in the Superdome. So, he and his family invited them into his home to ride out the storm. They are now 13 people on the second floor, waiting to be rescued. They are running our of drinking water, and cannot boil more, because the stove is on the first floor.
As soon as we get in touch with him, he will post some information on this site.


Morning of Prayer 8/31 8:44 AM

The governor of LA has called for a Day of Prayer today. At 8:30 AM, they are having a prayer service in Baton Rouge. It is amazing how powerfully people feel the need of help from G-d, in these situations. All day Sunday and Monday, as we evacuated, our alumni and students called us to ask what they can do right now to help, and we kept saying that they should put on Tefilling, resolve to light Shabbat candles.
Many Alumni have told me that they put on Tefillin on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, in our merit.
"All Jews are responsible for each other." The Rebbe points out that the word that the Talmud uses for "responsible" is related to the Hebrew word that means "intermixed." All Jews are "intermixed" with each other. One Jew's Mitzvah can make a difference for all Jews throughout the world.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Community Members 8/30 11 PM

I just spoke with two families in our community. One evacuated to Memphis area, the other, to Lafayette. Neither of them had seen the Mayor predicting the nine feet of water in our neighborhood, and I was not about to argue. Let's hope that they are right.
One family has a wedding scheduled for the middle of September, in New Orleans. At this point, we have to start thinking about where to do this wedding. The community is scattered across 8 states...


9 Feet of Water 8/30. 8:10 PM

This just appeared on the WWLTV website.
Until this, we had hopes of eventually returning to New Orleans and to our house. Not all the homes are flooded yet. But, now, we have the final realization, that, barring a Divine miracle, our house, the Chabad House, and all of our friend's houses are going to be flooded completely.
Our minds turn to the famous story of the Maggid of Mezritch, who lived in abject poverty. A wealthy man once visited his home and asked "where is all your furniture?" He answered, "Where is all your furniture?" The man replied, "In the home, it is different, now I am travelling!" The Maggid said, "I, too, am travelling. In my home, it is also different!"
When you lose your entire life's possessions in one day, you start to realize that we live pretty impermanent lives, and you thank G-d for giving you the ability to live a a meaningful life, which makes some part of your life eternal!


Chabad Evacuee Assistance Program 8/30. 5:15PM

We have been in contact with Chabad representatives in Texas and Florida. People are looking at dislocation for a month or more, and the Chabad Network is ready to help people that need spiritual, emotional and material support. I want to urge any evacuees in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, Birmingham, Atlanta, Talahassee, or Gainesville to contact the local Chabad House. Rabbis are waiting for your call.


Chabad Will Rebuild 8/30 11:50 AM

My father, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, has managed to leave the city, with the other members of my family. In a phone conversation, we resolve that Chabad will be on the forefront of the rebuilding effort in the area. Meanwhile, we are connecting with our network of Chabad representatives to provide assistance to evacuees that may be in other areas served by Chabad.


Rabbi Nemes 8/30 7:30 AM

The water in New Orleans continues to rise. My mother says that her street is still dry, but they are beginning to get scared. We have not managed to hear from Rabbi Nemes since 2 PM on Monday. He is in his house, with several people that were unable to evacuate. We are watching footage from the rooftops rescues, and we are wondering if he and the other 12 people in his house are in need of this type of rescue.

Monday, August 29, 2005


A Breach in the Levee! 8/29 11:30 PM

The news from New Orleans is getting worse, not better. There seems to be a breach in the levee holding Lake Pontchatrain out of the city, the water is rising.


Talahassee and Gainesville 8/29 - 5PM

We spent the morning with Rabbi Shneur Oirechman and his family, the Chabad directors in Talahasee. They went out of their way to provide us with food, a place to rest, and other things that a family traveling with four kids needs. After lunch, we continued to Gainesville and were greeted warmly by Rabbi Berl and Chanie Goldman. This trip really gave us the feeling of the brotherhood of the Jewish people!


Inside New Orleans 8/29 2 PM

Having spoken with my family in New Orleans, they sound safe, but Rabbi Nemes, in Metairie is in trouble. There is flooding in his house, and he has had to stay on the second floor. The flood water is contaminated, and there is no potable water or power.


Good News? 8/29 6:30 AM

The news from New Orleans looks better than it could have been. The storm did not it the city directly. But, the wind, rain, and possible storm surge could still be devastating. Our Alumni from all over the country are calling us constantly, and they want to be sure that we evacuated. Alumni from Nashville,Memphis, Birmingham, Miami, Boca Raton and Atlanta have all called to offer us places to stay.


Days Inn - Talahassee

Even though we were going east, it took us 12 hours to get to Talahasee, FL. We found a motel with a vacancy. Throughout the trip, we listened to coverage of the city officials begging people to leave, and we regularly talked to our family back in New Orleans, urging them to leave as well. They are riding it out.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


The Rabbis Decide to Stay

My father, the Executive director of Chabad of Louisiana, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, has decided to ride the storm out at home. In addition to my father and mother, my brother, Rabbi Mendel Rivkin, is staying with his wife, and five children, and three of my other siblings and my brother-in-law are staying as well. Rabbi Yossi Nemes, director of Chabad of Metairie, has decided to stay, with his family, because several people have contacted him and cannot get out of the city, so he has invited them into his house. We leave the city at this time.


Where to Go?

Where to Go? The west bound evacuation route is clogged, it might take 20 hours to get to Houston, the Northbound route is good, but that might be the path that the storm takes after it hits New Orleans. We are going East, and we hope to reach our friends, the Goldmans, who run Chabad of UF, in Gainesville FL.


Category Five

The morning news is not good. Katrina has been upgraded to a category five, and the track is still taking it directly over the city. We are going to leave!

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Stay or Go?

Students have been calling us for the last hour and a half. Those that are in town are trying to find ways to evacuate. Those that are not in town want to know what is going on, and whether we are leaving. We are still thinking about it. We have decided to wait until Sunday morning for more clarity, and then make our decision.


Katrina is Coming

This was a very up and down day. For Shabbos, our Shul was filled with congregants celebrating the wedding of one of our students, Ari Maddoff, who just graduated from Tulane Law. Today was also Freshmen move-in day for Tulane students, and we had a stream of Freshmen and their families stopping in to find out more about Chabad Campus programming. At about 2PM, we were informed that Tulane University had decided to evacuate the campus, sending home the Freshmen who had just arrived! A few hours later, we heard that the city was calling for a voluntary evacuation, ahead of Hurricane Katrina. We waited nervously until the end of Shabbos, and then immediately turned to news outlets for information. Right now, things look bad, but not too bad.


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